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Playing sideman to Rick Braun, Larry Carlton, Gato Barbieri, the Neville Brothers, and many others introduced guitarist/vocalist Steve Oliver to smooth jazz fans, but it was with Steve Reid's band that Oliver found a following. It was 1996 when Reid contacted Oliver at the last minute to fill in for a canceled opening act. Oliver hit the stage as a solo act and Reid was impressed with the guitarist's vocalese skills and summery sound (Oliver is a California native and a true follower of the laid-back lifestyle). Oliver had come to vocalese not through King Pleasure or Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, but through Bobby McFerrin and Pat Metheny's work with Richard Bona and David Blamires, who sang along with guitar solos. Being a fan of the earthy Metheny sound, Reid hired Oliver after the gig and featured him in his touring band. Reid's Mysteries and Passion in Paradise albums featured Oliver not only as guitarist but songwriter as well.
Oliver struck out on his own in 1999 with his debut, First View, released by Night Vision. The album spawned three hit singles on smooth jazz radio and earned the guitarist a Debut Artist of the Year award from Smooth Jazz News. Duties in Reid's band kept Oliver busy until 2002, when he released Positive Energy on Native Language. Spyro Gyra keyboardist Tom Schuman was in the producer's chair for Oliver's third album, 3-D, released by Koch in 2004.